Here's why Batman: The Animated Series "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" is one of the show's most underrated episodes. Batman: The Animated Series is considered a defining adaptation of Batman and series debuted in 1992, the same year as Tim Burton's Batman Returns. The show featured a dark, noirish tone, while Kevin Conroy was perfectly cast as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Mark Hamill was also praised for his take on the Joker.
Batman: The Animated Series received acclaim during it's run, and in addition to introducing Harley Quinn to the franchise, the show also reinvented the character of Mr. Freeze with the episode "Heart Of Ice." Even the show's spinoff movie Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm is regarded as one of the Caped Crusader's best outings. The show was eventually replaced with sequel series Batman Beyond, which found a teenager named Terry McGinnis donning the mask as an elderly Bruce Wayne acted as mentor.
While Batman: The Animated Series was still family-friendly, featuring no explicit violence or onscreen deaths, it could still get surprisingly dark and psychological. Episodes like "Perchance To Dream" - where Bruce Wayne dreams of a life where he never became Batman - or "Over The Edge" are considered some of the show's best, but "The Cape And Cowl Conspiracy" is held in weak regard among fans. This is a shame since it's actually a fun little cat and mouse thriller - or in this case, a bat and mouse thriller.
The story between Batman: The Animated Series' "The Cape And Cowl Conspiracy" has an interrogation specialist called Josiah Wormwood hired by Wacklaw Josek - voiced by John Rhys-Davies (The Lord Of The Rings) - to steal Batman's cape and cowl, after the hero humiliated him. Wormwood specializes in luring his targets into death traps so he can extract information from them. Batman is also looking for Wormwood, who previously stole some bonds, so most of the episode is two intelligent foes trying to outsmart each other.
While the actual plot of Batman: The Animated Series' "The Cape And Cowl Conspiracy" is faulty at best, it's quite a tense episode. Wormwood lures Batman into a couple of different traps, include a room slowly filling with scalding hot wax. When Batman figures a way to shut this off, Wormwood switches to plan b and fills the room with gas. The Caped Crusader is ultimately forced to give up the Batman cape and cowl - though he wears a second mask to hide his identity.
Wormwood is very much a Riddler-style villain in "The Cape And Cape Conspiracy," who is given a creepy edge by voice actor Bud Cort. The big twist reveals Josek didn't actually hire Wormwood - it was the Dark Knight in disguise, and the whole thing was an elaborate ruse. This reveal doesn't make much sense, but it does lead to a good fight scene between the two and Wormwood's arrest. The story was actually based on a 1975 comic story called "The Cape and Cowl Death Trap!" while the episode marked the first use of the Bat-signal on the series, with Gordon using it to brief Batman on Wormwood.
Batman: The Animated Series' "The Cape And Cape Conspiracy" can't be called a classic episode, but it's also much better than its reputation suggests. Wormwood is an enjoyably slimy villain, the trap sequences are tense and it marks one of the few times the Dark Knight genuinely loses on the show when he's forced to offer up the Batman cape and cowl.